In what has become a Christmas tradition for us, my family once recently attended the holiday production of Encore Theatrical Arts Project (ETAP), “Christmas in New York.” ETAP, known for its Broadway-style musicals, each year produces a fantastic show, the likes of which you’d see from a professional troupe, but whose cast is primarily local students. The Christmas productions are hugely popular shows, and rightfully so: if you can’t get to see a show like the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular in New York, this is the next best thing!
“Christmas in New York,” playing now through December 20, 2015, again features lavish sets, beautiful costumes, colorful sequences, fantastic dancing and singing, and a few surprises. This year’s show tells the story of Eddie, a boy bursting with ideas who attends North Pole school with eccentric classmates and a sensational new teacher who promises fame and glory . . . but for whom?
Eddie pursues his dreams of being an inventor, hashing out his ideas and traveling from the North Pole to the International Toy Convention in New York City, where he discovers that not all great ideas may be practical in real life. The title of the show, “Christmas in New York,” is a bit of a misnomer, as the New York scenes all take place inside a hotel, so The Big Apple serves merely as the setting (in other words, don’t look for iconic New York places or things).
But the spirit of The Big Apple is there — the idea that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and that this is a magical time of year full of interesting characters and great time to work together. The sets, as always, are highly detailed, beautiful, and surprisingly professional.
The choreography is fun and has some special scenes. You can’t go wrong, for example, with a stage full of dancing Santas — something that will put the audience, kids and adults alike, wide-eyed — or spinning reindeer, or toy soldiers who march and even fall all in line. There are some fun glow-in-the dark scenes as well, and one delightful scene where funky slippers are the focus. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that it’s quite a feat (or is that “feet?”) to be so entertaining when the stage curtain covers up so much in that sequence. This was our son’s favorite part of the show.
The singers and dancers, nearly three dozen students ranging from 10 to 18 years old, plus a couple of professional actors, clearly enjoy themselves on stage and that love for their craft and enthusiasm for this show makes the performance even more delightful. ETAP, a -for-profit performing arts company has entertained local audiences for the past 20 years. Many of its graduates have gone on to become successful professional dancers, including Radio City Rockettes and Broadway performers. Kudos to founder and artistic director Raynor van der Merwe and her team for creating such a successful arts organization that provides this “gift” to our community year after year!
The running time for this show is two hours, with a 15-minute intermission (basic concessions are available). Tickets are $19 for students and seniors, and $23 for adults. Showtimes this weekend are:
- Friday, December 18, at 8 pm
- Saturday, December 19, at noon, and a Special Gala performance at 5 pm
- Sunday, December 20, at noon and 4 pm
The Special Gala performance on December 19, 5-11 pm, is a 20th anniversary celebration with cocktails, hors dʼoeuvres, live music, and glamour. Tickets for that event are $75-100, with the gala reception following the 5 pm show.
— Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Photos courtesy of and (c) Encore Theatrical Arts Project